My husband owns a gun that is kept locked in a safe and unloaded, far away from the reach of our two young children. It’s for his job and his safety—he has to drive alone, late at night through neighborhoods whose illicit gun collections rival that of the armed population of a small country.
And while we are very safe and certainly not alone—roughly 34 percent, or 40 million U.S. households, have guns after all, according to the 2012 General Social Survey—I have to admit that it still makes me nervous, gives me pause, because I see the statistics, too. You know the ones—the ones that detail just how many children are injured or killed by a gun that’s kept in the house.
Let's be clear: Gun owners don't want their children to die, either.
Statistics like these: In 2010, 2,694 children died from guns in the United States, according to the Children’s Defense Fund. Accidental gun deaths accounted for 134 of those.
And while statistically, that’s a very small incidence (134 deaths per 40 million households with guns), all of those children were loved, just as mine are. And let’s be clear: Gun owners don’t want their children to die, either.
So how do we as a country put aside the knee-jerk condemnations that place millions of gun owners into one category marked “Irresponsible” and address something that can be done right now?
How do we keep our kids safe when there is a gun in the house?
According to a recent Yale University study, 1.7 million kids live in a home with an unlocked gun. “If there is a gun in the house,” the American Academy of Pediatrics responded in a statement, “it must be stored unloaded and locked, with the ammunition locked separately.”
That’s just for starters.
Both my husband and I have sat down with our daughter to talk to her about guns and how dangerous they are. We've told her very clearly that she should never touch a gun if she sees one and to go tell the nearest adult. We've told her, too, that they could hurt or even kill someone and, above all, they're not toys.
When our son is old enough to understand our words, we'll sit down with him as well.
My kids are little, and because little attention spans are short, I also know that this isn't a one-time conversation. It's something that will come up again and will evolve as they get older.
Many of us in this country, myself included, grew up around guns. My grandfather and father collected guns, and some of my family members hunt for sport.
And though my dad taught me how to shoot a gun, I was always bored by the idea. Some kids aren’t. That’s where we as parents come in—to keep our little ones away from things that can hurt them.
And while it’s sometimes easy to be dismissive of gun owners—sadly, the news is littered with gun-related tragedies on a daily basis—it’s unfair to paint them all with the same damning brush.
After all, I worry about my children, too. I worry about their safety on the six-lane freeways I regularly drive on with them. I worry about their safety when they visit friend’s houses with pools. And yes, I worry even when there’s a locked and unloaded weapon in our home.
Because 134 is a relatively small number, unless it includes your own.